The following is guest commentary from John Motter, United Soybean Board Chairman.
In their story, “Plowed Under, The Next American Farm Bust Is Upon Us,” (paywall) the Wall Street Journal reported on the tough times we’re facing in agriculture. They are tough. And, as a corn and soybean farmer, it’s painful to see. But farmers are nothing if not resilient. And we’ll survive this one too.
One of the biggest challenges in farming is that we have so little control over the price we receive for our crop. That’s because we compete in an undifferentiated commodity market that values quantity over quality. That encourages farmers to keep growing more of a particular crop and trust there’s enough demand in the marketplace to sell it at an acceptable price. And as the story pointed out, supply is outpacing demand across much of agriculture right now.
At the United Soybean Board, we believe one of the things we can do to ensure we not only survive this downturn, but thrive well beyond it, is create a system that values product quality as much as product quantity. The result of this shift delivers better products that our customers want in quantities upon which they can depend. With strategic investments in improving our soybean meal and soybean oil products to better meet our customers’ needs, USB’s already headed down that path. To help get us there, we need a modern system that ensures all links in the supply chain can benefit from these innovations.
The U.S. soybean industry has demonstrated we can sustainably produce a crop. Soybean yields have increased by nearly 50% on a bushel per acre basis since 1986, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And with the level of investment in agricultural innovation, I have no reason to believe this trend won’t continue.
Economies are cyclical, and agriculture is no different. What is different about agriculture, though, is the system’s preference of supply over demand. That helps explain why we’re dealing with a tough economy right now.
In our opinions, there’s no better time to reinvent our system in a way that values quality and yield than now. Because differentiating U.S. soybeans like this will spark a wave of innovation that will ripple throughout the agricultural economy and beyond.
And that’s exactly what we’re working toward at USB.
John Motter, Ohio farmer
United Soybean Board Chairman